Aging is an issue that has attracted several researchers in the past, who have defined it differently. Da Costa et al. (2016) described aging as breaking down a self-organized system, causing a reduced ability to adjust to the environment. Lemoine (2020) considered it as a progressive accumulation of changes associated with increased vulnerability to diseases and death. Older adults are defined as individuals who have attained 65 years or more. Gerontologists explained that aging results from one gene or a deterioration in the body’s immune system. However, their current findings reveal that several other processes combine and interact at multiple levels and contribute to this process (da Costa et al., 2016). Thus, the current definition indicates that the different body systems that experience diverse kinds of aging factors result in the overall degeneration in older adults’ health.
Aging is not is a disease but a risk factor for some severe and chronic diseases. It accelerates due to some specific maladies, which tend to decline the body functionality and impair quality of life. However, it is possible to delay rapid aging, as revealed by recent studies conducted by Correa-de-Araujo et al. (2020) at the National Institute of Aging conference and da Costa et al. (2016). These researches indicated that there are practices that people can do and reduce their rate of becoming geriatric.
Aging and Related Factors
The main aim of healthy aging is to lengthen the elderly’s life and, most specifically, extend their active years. Regrettably, long-term illnesses continue to become directly associated with advancement in age, and to some extent, have become a regular part of aging. However, studies continue to demonstrate that the increased prevalence of several persistent maladies among the younger generation does not correlate with aging but relies heavily on lifestyle and health promotion behaviors. Leading causes of mortality vary depending on age, sex, and ethnicities. For instance, according to Berger et al. (2016), older people die mainly from stroke or cerebrovascular diseases. The study also found that cancer kills both males and females, followed by heart diseases, which accounted for nearly a million deaths (Balakumar et al., 2016). Still, several other diseases affect the elderly that result from earlier health-related behaviors.
Economically advanced countries have individuals older than 65 years increasing rapidly, accounting for 15% of the population. The rise in the number of elderly in society results in social and economic pressures associated with caring for them (Amarya et al., 2015). However, several people aged 65 years and above live healthy lives and do not depend on others for assistance. Consequently, the use of chronological assessment of the aged in terms of their medical conditions or economic health limits any particular study in this specific area of interest (Amarya et al., 2015). Thus, it is essential to find alternative ways to understand the elderly and the different factors affecting their health.
The number of older people continues to rise across the United States. The current global median age was estimated to increase from 26.6 years in 2000 to 37.3 years in 2050 and 45.6 years in 2100 as noted by Amarya et al. (2015). Jin et al. (2015) agree with this trend citing the increase in global life expectancy that has been on the rise for the past decades reaching a worldwide average of 70 years in 2014. According to Jin et al. (2015), the developed countries showed higher years of healthy living, hitting an average of 80 years. The higher expectancy in developed nations directly results from advanced medical attention, a rise in the standards of living, proper sanitation, and reduced child mortality rates.
Experts differ on the factors that contribute to an increase in life expectancy in the 21stcentury. According to some, the trend may not necessarily result in lower mortality rates. The researchers propose that the expected age of living may decline if the medical advancements reduce concerning the emerging killer maladies currently witnessed in the world, especially among the elderly (Sharrer, 2019). However, according to Warraich et al. (2017), the current medical technologies have made it easier to attend to patients with cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD), which are the leading causes of death among people aged 65 years and above. Still, new technologies are on the rise to curb the medical issues facing the world presently. Still, it is not a guarantee that new health issues may not arise.
Life expectancy has continued to rise women live longer than men. Researchers have made advances to understand the various biological mechanisms that account for higher life expectancy but have not identified a specific factor to explain the disparities (Kanasi et al., 2016; Carmona & Michan, 2016). However, there are several biological variations among females and males that account for how long one lives. For instance, studies have shown that the differences in genetic and physiological factors like progressive X chromosome inactivation skewing have mainly contributed to these discrepancies (Galupa & Heard, 2018). Other factors include telomere attrition, mitochondrial inheritance, hormonal and cellular response to stress, immune function, and metabolic substrate handling (Ventura et al., 2017). Researchers have not found ways to close the gap resulting from these factors to address the differences in life expectancy in the two sexes.
The differences do not only occur between men and women, it also occurs among twins. Studies have tried to explore how physically identical twins tend to become distinguishable as they age. The scholars did this by comparing the effects of external factors on the genetic composition of the bodies of people who look alike at the same age. According to Skinner et al. (2017), identical twins exhibit discrepancies in signs associated with their aging due to their differences in personal choices and healthy lifestyles. One of the most noted exogenous factors that the researchers attributed to the aging population was smoking behaviors and exposure to the sun. The study also noted that possible lifestyle factors that led to these differences include stress, choice of diet, physical exercise, the burden of disease, use of alcoholic drinks, and medication (Skinner et al., 2017). According to Shlisky (2017), eliminating some significant risk factors for chronic diseases such as smoking, lack of exercise, and low diet may reduce CVD, stroke, and diabetes mellitus by 80%. Hence, the former studies overrated the influence of genetic constitution on aging as more recent research confirmed the impact of other factors.
The aging process does not solely result from chronological age. Instead, the determining factor relies heavily on the duration that events that harm the body and cells occur. In contrast, it arises from several mechanisms that tend to work together. Researchers have a fundamental comprehension of the wide variety of factors that initiate various processes that lead to growing old (McDaniel et al., 2018). The critical way cells are damaged is by not receiving the nutrients required for functioning, repair, or reproduction. Each cell in the human body needs a reserve of oxygen, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and sugar; and also requires that waste products such as carbon dioxide be eliminated. Eating a well-balanced diet is the only part of providing nutrients to cells. The food has to be digested, absorbed into the bloodstream, and routed to the appropriate cells.
The role of diet is an essential and modifiable risk factor in deterring disease events. Research has increasing evidence linking nutrition and health, specifically in older people (Govindaraju et al., 2018). The United States Department of Agriculture recently called for researchers to study and give evidence for meals and their associated health benefits. Dietary recommendations such as the Mediterranean diet are associated with the reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and chronic kidney diseases (Govindaraju et al., 2018). Eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seafood, and low consumption of sweetened foods, refined grains, and processed meat has been proposed to benefit health.
Considering the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) that target people aged 65 years and older, one must understand the numerous essential factors related to aging with nutrition. Statistically, not many older adults meet RDA requirements. For instance, according to Beasley et al. (2016), only 50% of men and 33% of women meet the RDA for protein. However, it is significant to understand the role of diet and nutrition as essential components for solving the demographic challenge and compressing morbidity.
The scrutiny of nutritional status indicated that older people showed a low-to-moderate prevalence of frank nutrition deficiencies, but on the other hand, there was a rise in the risk of malnutrition and subclinical inadequacies. The observations’ significance is critical, particularly by recognizing that the state of one’s feeding affects the rate of age-related functional decline in several organ systems. Proper eating remains an essential element of progressive body composition changes related to aging, for instance, bone loss and lean body mass. There is no dispute among researchers that the chronic diseases affecting adults relate to their diet.
New evidence proposed by Carr and Lykkesfeldt (2020) indicates changes in nutritional requirements linked with aging, though, this raises critical issues associated with proper criteria to use when selecting RDA for the elderly. This proof poses some of the most vital questions, such as whether the experts should adjust nutritional requirements to meet the age-associated changes in the body’s composition and physiological function. On the other hand, it prompts researchers to understand if the determination of the body’s optimal composition and its levels of the process can help design an appropriate RDA to achieve these needs. However, one of RDA’s main issues concerns the vulnerability to diseases for both present and future generations. This relies on whether the proposed RDA can meet the nutrient requirements to maintain a healthy life among any particular age group. The other issue is whether the new proposal should recommend diets that result in a maximal reduction of risks to diseases.
The new proposal should address the issues that have affected human health for ages. In particular, all age groups depend on diet, lifestyle, and body weight maintenance to be fit, but most importantly, they are essential for healthy aging. According to Leslie and Hankey (2015), maintaining good nutritional status leads to perfect health and well-being, including reducing chances for contracting diseases and improving functional independence. By extension, improving these factors and achieving a healthy body results in any country’s enhanced economic and social health.
The proposal should also address recent environmental and lifestyle dynamics, which have called for more complex dietary recommendations for the elderly. How different family life patterns have changed have resulted in less support among the aged, while at the same time, making them face various challenges related to taste and smell. Moreover, elderly people continue to experience anorexia, mobility difficulties, dental and chewing problems, and access to high-quality fresh meals (Bloom et al., 2018). The challenges mentioned above are significant concerns since older people need increased nutrient-dense foods to help them meet their changing needs for more nutrients and reduced energy requirements.
It is critical to design community-based interventions that can help older individuals with their need for nutrients. Such approaches should assist the elderly understand the elements required to make the quality of their meals and support them in determining the right amount of food they need to take. Even though there are some similarities between younger and older people’s feeding recommendations, specific factors dominate nutrition among the elderly. According to Bloom et al. (2018), there were inadequate diets among 65 or older individuals who live alone in four European nations. The study also revealed that a deficient meal did not relate to a lack of resources among the elderly. The chronological age had little effect on foot quality among older members of society (Bloom et al., 2018). Insufficient data on the age-related impact on eating habits reveals a consistency in the differences between biological and chronological periods. Furthermore, it prompts for the need to understand how age-related factors play a critical role and are essential in determining the choice of food and quality of diet, thus informing interventions design that can support older people.
Amarya, S., Singh, K., & Sabharwal, M. (2015). Changes during aging and their association with malnutrition. Journal of Clinical Gerontology and Geriatrics, 6(3), 78–-84.
Balakumar, P., Maung-U, K., & Jagadeesh, G. (2016). Prevalence and prevention of cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. Pharmacological Research, 113, 600–-609.
Beasley, J. M., Deierlein, A. L., Morland, K. B., Granieri, E. C., & Spark, A. (2016). Is meeting the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein related to body composition among older adults? Results from the Cardiovascular Health of Seniors and Built Environment Study. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 20(8), 790–-796.
Berger, K., Schopohl, D., Lowe, G., Holme, P. A., Tait, R. C., Combescure, C., Rauchensteiner, S., &and Klamroth, R. (2016). How to compare cardiovascular disease and risk factors in elderly patients with haemophilia with the general population. Haemophilia, 22(5), e406–-e416.
Bloom, I., Shand, C., Cooper, C., Robinson, S., & Baird, J. (2018). Diet quality and sarcopenia in older adults: A systematic review. Nutrients, 10(3), 308.
Carmona, J. J., & Michan, S. (2016). Biology of healthy aging and longevity. Revista de Investigacion Clinica, 68(1), 7-–16.
Carr, A. C., & Lykkesfeldt, J. (2020). Discrepancies in global vitamin C recommendations: a review of RDA criteria and underlying health perspectives. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 1-14.
Correa-de-Araujo, R., Addison, O., Miljkovic, I., Goodpaster, B. H., Bergman, B. C., Clark, R. V., Elena, J. W., Esser, K. A., Ferrucci, L., Harris-Love, M. O., and Kritchevsky, S. B., Lorbergs, A., Shepherd, J. A., Shulman, G. I., & Rosen, C. J. (2020). Myosteatosis in the Context of Skeletal Muscle Function Deficit: An Interdisciplinary Workshop at the National Institute on Aging. Frontiers in Physiology, 11, 963.
da Costa, J. P., Vitorino, R., Silva, G. M., Vogel, C., Duarte, A. C., & Rocha-Santos, T. (2016). A synopsis on aging — Theories, mechanisms and future prospects. Ageing Research Reviews, 29, 90-–112.
Galupa, R., & Heard, E. (2018). X-chromosome inactivation: A crossroads between chromosome architecture and gene regulation. Annual Review of Genetics, 52, 535-–566.
Govindaraju, T., Sahle, B. W., McCaffrey, T. A., McNeil, J. J., & Owen, A. J. (2018). Dietary patterns and quality of life in older adults: A systematic review. Nutrients, 10(8), 971.
Jin, K., Simpkins, J. W., Ji, X., Leis, M., & Stambler, I. (2015). The critical need to promote research of aging and aging-related diseases to improve health and longevity of the elderly population. Aging and Disease, 6(1), 1–5.
Kanasi, E., Ayilavarapu, S., & Jones, J. (2016). The aging population: Demographics and the biology of aging. Periodontology 2000, 72(1), 13-–18.
Lemoine, M. (2020). Defining aging. Biology & Philosophy, 35(5), 1–-30.
Leslie, W., & Hankey, C. (2015, September). Aging, nutritional status and health. In Healthcare, 3(3), 648–658. doi:10.3390/healthcare3030648 (Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 648-658). Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute.
McDaniel, D., Farris, P., & Valacchi, G. (2018). Atmospheric skin aging — Contributors and inhibitors. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 17(2), 124–-137.
Sharrer, G. (2019). Extending Health Expectancy. Molecular Frontiers Journal, 3(02), 147-165.
Skinner, A. L., Woods, A., Stone, C. J., Penton-Voak, I., & Munafo, M. R. (2017). Smoking status and attractiveness among identical twins discordant for smoking. Royal Society Open Science, 4(12), 161076.
Ventura, M. T., Casciaro, M., Gangemi, S., & Buquicchio, R. (2017). Immunosenescence in aging: Between immune cells depletion and cytokines up-regulation. Clinical and Molecular Allergy, 15(1), 21.
Warraich, H. J., Hernandez, A. F., & Allen, L. A. (2017). How medicine has changed the end of life for patients with cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 70(10), 1276–-1289.